I wasn't particularly helpful to my colleagues in council the other day. I opposed almost every section and clause of a specific piece of draft policy we were considering. I didn't intentionally set out to do so, however the longer the proceedings went on the more the process frustrated me. I got to the point where I found that being powerless to adequately protect our community was demeaning and insulting not only to the individual and collective wisdom in the room but to the safety and health of our region and nation.
Let me explain.
The issue arose from the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 which commenced on July 18. The central concept of the act is that the import, manufacture, sale and supply of psychoactive products is prohibited unless a sponsor can satisfy the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority that the substance poses a low risk of harm to individuals who use the product.
While it is not mandatory for a local authority to adopt a Local Approved Products Policy it is encouraged by the Government for local rules to be put in place to further control the sale of psychoactive products. Local policy on this matter can control the location of premises selling psychoactive products within the district, their density and their proximity to sensitive facilities. Council cannot, however, ban the sale of psychoactive substances in the district or have a policy so restrictive that it effectively bans the sale of approved products.
The adoption of a Local Approved Products Policy was what we were deliberating on this particular day. After hearing submissions from the public on the matter we went through the draft document with the chair seeking agreement on the document's content. The draft policy stated that the aim of the policy is to "create a safe and healthy community free from the negative effects of psychoactive substances". Right off the bat I took exception to this clause. While seemingly ideal and noble on the surface, the real crux of the matter for me was that we as Hastings District Council, and local authorities around the country, will never be able to create safe and healthy communities "free" from the negative effects of psychoactive substances so long as they are permitted to be sold. We can get real and acknowledge that the best way to protect the health of our communities and minimise harm in relation to psychoactive substances is to ban their sale outright. Central government have the power to do this. We need our MPs' help on this crucial matter.
While largely I respect our MPs individually, collectively our Government have got this one wrong. These substances are brutalising our community. I have mothers seeking my help for otherwise gentle and caring children turned despondent or demonic on these substances.
The increasing prevalence of suicides is being linked to these substances and horribly nearly every neighbourhood has a desperate drug story to tell. The burden on our mental health system and communities will ever more increase so long as the prolific sale of these substances is permitted and arguably being blessed to occur.
I'm not a trained clinician nor do I have to be to see the destructive effects of these substances. Anyone with a pair of eyes and a bit of common sense can see it and one key answer.
MPs, will you help us right this wrong and protect our communities? Ban these substances.